Recently, doctors have begun prescribing aqua therapy to help people with serious injuries and disabilities. People with disabilities are often caught in a cycle of pain, depression, and stress. Disability can lead to social isolation, an external locus of control (believing that one does not have choice or possess control of one’s destiny), and the belief that exercise and fitness is impossible for them. Aquatic therapy is able to break this chronic pain cycle largely because of the unique properties of water.
How does it work?
Individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) or other special populations may be unable to exercise on land, but often can do so comfortably in the water. The buoyancy of water causes the individual to feel an upward thrust when submerged. This force acts in the opposite direction of gravity. Buoyancy allows for a variety of exercises to be performed in the pool with minimal equipment.
Exercises performed in water can be adapted to resist the upward thrust of buoyancy, support the upward thrust of buoyancy, or to assist this upward thrust. Submersion decreases weight bearing by up to 90% when submerged in neck deep water, so an individual who is unable to support their body weight on land is often able to walk with minimal support in the pool.
Hydrostatic pressure is the force exerted on the immersed body by fluid molecules. No movement is necessary by the individual in order to reap the many benefits of hydrostatic pressure.
Practitioners should also be aware of the complications that water can pose in therapy or exercise. Buoyancy might cause stability problems both for the practitioner and for the individual. In addition, buoyancy can make it difficult for individuals to get balanced in the water because flaccid, weak extremities may float and spastic, flexed extremities may sink. Flotation supports, such as: “water noodles,” lifejackets, or specially designed aquatic floatation devices can help compensate for stability problems.
The water also provides excellent resistance for toning exercises. The higher viscosity of water makes muscles work harder when compared to the same exercises on land. Viscosity can be described as the way the water molecules stick together when you try to move through them. It is harder to move through the water than it is to move on land because the water molecules are sticking to each other and to you. This viscosity means that more muscle fibers are recruited for each movement through water. The heart must also work harder providing blood to the muscles, which results in cardiovascular fitness, as well as overall toning.
Aqua therapy creates new opportunities and opens doors that were once closed to people with certain injuries and disabilities.
If you have suffered a disability due to an accident, or if your insurance company has denied your claim to disability benefits, contact us.